Harnessing the power of complaints?

rachel, blog authorOpinions about complaining are often divided but when we are living in a service-oriented society what do we do when services are poor and cause us distress?

Those that do complain can be seen as being fussy, having ridiculous expectations or the sort of people who just like to moan. On the other hand those that don’t complain because they don’t want to make a fuss will continue to get bad services.

Some of the most common reasons for not complaining include: fear of reprisals, the confusing process involved in registering a complaint, and a lack of conviction that making a complaint will lead to change. This last reason is possibly the most worrying reasons for not complaining and it highlights the need for a reassessment of how we understand and respond to complaints.

Recently there has been a lot more discussion around the benefits that come from complaining. With a new strategy for 2013 -2016, 'More Impact for More People', the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is promising to investigate thousands instead of merely hundreds of complaints.

This new strategy is necessary in a changing policy landscape that is becoming increasingly service oriented.

Public services need to do more, for more beneficiaries, with fewer resources. Our expectations are higher and public services need to adapt to this changing society and become accountable for the services they provide.

So it is time for all service providers and users to reconsider the power of complaints.

Service users need to understand that not only do they have a right to complain but by complaining they have the power to effect change.

A report by Richard Simmons and Carol Brennan for Nesta explores the power of complaints. They highlight how the increasing use of social media allows opinions to be expressed instantly, leading us to want services that are equally responsive. Service providers need to harness the power of easy survey tools and social media to make the process of complaining and giving feedback easier and less time consuming.

When a complaint is made it basically means that something is wrong, someone is dissatisfied and expectations haven’t been met. Yes this is disappointing, but instead of seeing a complaint in a purely negative light it needs to be seen as an opportunity.

Complaints can help identify problems for service providers and allow them to improve, change and innovate. Providers need to see mistakes as an opportunity to learn. The new strategy from the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman has already identified this as a priority and intends to target it by increasing knowledge sharing across departments and raising awareness of complaints procedures. 

The new dialogue on complaints allows us to see ‘the act of complaining’ in a whole new light.

Complaining effectively through the right channels has the potential to drive innovation - leading to better services for everyone - so I strongly urge you to harness the power of complaints.
 

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